A BAHRAIN cricketer has been selected by the Sharjah Warriors in their squad for the International League T20 (ILT20) tournament currently underway in the UAE, making him the first ever player from the kingdom to become part of an international T20 franchise team.
Fast-medium bowler, Muhammad Rizwan Butt, 32, was picked up by the franchise after a string of stellar performances in Bahrain’s triumphant campaign in the 2022-23 Malaysia Quadrangular T20I series last December caught the attention of their scouts.
Foremost amongst Butt’s exploits in that tournament was a world record spell of five wickets in six balls, including a hat-trick, en route to career-best T20I bowling figures of 5/16 against Singapore in a group game.
The Sharjah Warriors, led by England all-rounder Moeen Ali, are among the six teams, all featuring top cricketers from around the world, taking part in the tournament which is in its inaugural season.
“I’m very happy and excited to be part of the Warriors squad,” Butt told the GDN by phone from Dubai.
“Every cricketer dreams of being able to play for a top-notch franchise side. I don’t have the words to describe what it feels like to be sharing a dressing room with international cricketers whom I’d only ever seen on TV earlier.”
The 15-man Warriors squad also includes star players like England’s Chris Woakes and Dawid Malan, West Indies opening batsman Evin Lewis, Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis and Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi.
“Everyone is so nice and helpful,” Butt said. “The atmosphere in the dressing room is fabulous. Moeen is wonderful, as is Dawid. Chris has also been very supportive and, whenever I’ve bowled during net practice, he has offered valuable tips.”
He was extremely grateful, Butt added, to Bahrain head coach Aashish Kapoor for his constant support and the owner of his club team, the Bahrain Cricket Club, for all the encouragement he has received.
“We are thankful to the Sharjah Warriors management for providing this opportunity to Rizwan,” Bahrain Cricket Federation president Hatim Dadabai told the GDN. “We are really glad that he has gotten the chance to share a dressing room with some of the top players in the world.
“This will, no doubt, be a great learning process for him and will be hugely beneficial for Bahrain cricket as well once he returns to the national side after playing with, and against, some of the best cricketers on the planet.”
Butt’s history-making selection for the Warriors will, indeed, be quite a boost for the BCF as it continues its efforts to expand and popularise the game in the kingdom.
“We are super-excited that Rizwan has landed this splendid opportunity to play for the Warriors, coming as it does on the back of his recent T20I record and spectacular performance in the Malaysia Quadrangular series,” the BCF’s chief development officer, Gurumurthy Palani told the GDN.
“The dressing room experience under the captaincy of Moeen Ali will be invaluable for him.”
The BCF’s advisory board chairman, Mohammed Mansoor who was invited to the opening ceremony of the tournament last week, told the GDN that Butt’s selection for the ILT20 showed just how quickly the game of cricket had progressed in Bahrain since the cricket board’s new management took charge in late 2021.
“Rizwan’s inclusion in the Sharjah Warrior’s squad is a testament to how far cricket has come in just over a year and a half with the support and encouragement of the BCF,” he said.
“Our world-class coaches and support staff and their single-minded dedication to the sport has helped cricket to grow exponentially in a very short time with great promise for the future.
“I hope our first-ever tournament win in Malaysia in December and Rizwan’s selection for such a major franchise team will encourage our boys to dream big and bring even more laurels for Bahrain.”